Thousands Joining Church at Easter in US

Bishops' Conference Features Conversion Stories Online

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WASHINGTON, D.C., APRIL 15, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Tens of thousands of new Catholics are expected to join the Church at Easter, including a former Planned Parenthood director and seven members of the same family.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) released the statistics of those expected to join the Church based on participation in the Rite of Election and Call to Continuing Conversion, a step in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults that takes place at the beginning of Lent.

Among those preparing to enter the Church is Abby Johnson, former Planned Parenthood clinic director and author of "Unplanned."

In an interview with ZENIT last month, Johnson explained, "The day I left Planned Parenthood, I was embraced by the loving arms of the people who had prayed for me for years, most of whom are Catholic."

She continued: "After attending some various Catholic parishes, I fell in love with the liturgy and found myself wanting to learn more and more each day.

"I found myself in awe of the devotion that my Catholic friends had that I didn't, and I knew I wanted that same devotion myself. Doug and I decided we want to be a part of what the Catholic Church stands for and we have found such purpose through the Church."

Johnson and her family will join the Church with 911 others in the Diocese of Austin, Texas.

James and Michelle House, formerly Episcopalian, will enter full communion with the Catholic Church in the San Francisco Archdiocese. The following week, five of their children will also be received into the Church.

Vitality

Thousands of new Catholics are expected in the archdioceses nationwide: 1,600 in New York; 811 in Philadelphia; 1,100 in Washington; more than 1,000 in Seattle; 875 in Portland, Oregon; 1,100 in Cincinnati, Ohio; 2,490 in Galveston-Houston, Texas; 1,912 in Atlanta; 504 in Louisville, Kentucky; 613 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin; and 643 in St. Paul and Minneapolis, Minnesota.

The numbers in smaller dioceses reflect "the vitality" of the Church in the Midwest, South and Southeast regions of the country, the USCCB reported.

On Monday, the bishops' conference will begin featuring conversion stories from around the country on its media blog page.

Others preparing to enter the Church include an African woman who was raised Muslim, a marine set for deployment in June, and a secretary at the Diocese of Manchester, New Hampshire who has been sharing her conversion story online.

Cheryl Sickle, who works in the Office of Worship and Sacraments in Wheeling-Charleston, West Virginia, observed, "Each year, some of the most touching moments at the Rite of Election include the emotions expressed."

"We see faces full of joy as catechumens and candidates alike realize the bigger picture of their decision to join the Church," she said.

Sickle continued: "We see the smiles of proud grandparents as their young grandchildren painstakingly sign the Book of the Elect, and the overwhelming emotions of wives or husbands, brought to tears, whose spouses are converting to the Roman Catholic faith after years of marriage.

"We see physically challenged people with a look of determination as they slowly and resolutely process forward, and the bond of belonging on the faces of a family who welcome into their midst and into their faith a newly-adopted son or daughter of a different ethnicity. It is a one-time rite, but the RCIA formation behind it lasts -- and changes -- a lifetime."

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On the Net:

USCCB Media Blog: http://usccbmedia.blogspot.com/